How common is mould? It is everywhere – literally. Mould spores are all around us in the air, water, and soil.
Some moulds are good. They make yogurt, cheese, soy sauce and many medications (including penicillin and other antibiotics).
Other moulds are bad. These require goggles and face masks and special equipment to clean up and dispose of.
While the former has saved many a life and nourished far more besides, the latter can strike fear into the heart of even the most stalwart home or business owner.
Mould spores are tiny and cannot be seen with the naked eye. By the time spores have colonized a space and spread to the point at which they become visible, the problem is often severe.
Luckily, mould generally announces its presence first through more obvious warning signs. In this blog post, learn what to watch for to get early warning your space may have a mould problem.
1. There is a persistent strange odour in the building
A strange odour is among the first and most common of the warning signs mould often sends out when it colonizes a space.
This odour has been described in a number of ways. But there are some similarities that seem to stay consistent regardless of the size of the space or the degree of infestation:
- The odour is persistent and does not respond to air fresheners, fragrances or even ventilation efforts.
- The odour smells dank, earthy, musty or grassy – some describe it more like “dirty gym socks.”
- The odour becomes immediately apparent when first entering the space.
2. Certain areas in the building are consistently humid or damp
Depending on the age of your building and the state of any existing ductwork or ventilation system, some areas may be naturally more humid than others. Poorly routed ductwork, in particular, can often cause chronic temperature and humidity imbalances that will then lead to mould growth and buildup.
A basement or crawl space is usually damper and more humid than any area above ground. This is due to the nature of having a soil-surrounded space versus a space surrounded by air.
Condensation on windows, damp or soggy patches on carpeting or a higher natural humidity level (such as in laundry rooms or unvented storage areas) can also indicate areas at a higher risk of developing mould infestations.
3. The building was impacted by a significant leak or flood in the past
If you have occupied a commercial building for some time and/or you know of its history from a prior owner, you may be aware of a significant leak or water event that impacted it in the past.
Here, it is smart to find out all you can about any remediation work that was done (or not) after that event.
Poorly done remediation or a lack of remediation can leave trapped moisture or even cover it up with insulation or vapour barriers that actually end up encouraging mould growth rather than repelling it!
4. Workers are complaining of health symptoms
When mould infestation gets bad enough, it becomes possible to sense it immediately upon entering the infested space.
Headaches, runny noses, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing, headache, mental fogginess, daytime sleepiness, skin itching, rashes and respiratory symptoms can all signal that there is a mould problem.
The more workers are affected, the more likely it is the root cause of the health symptoms is mould in the building.
5. Employee health insurance claims are on the rise
Another possible indication that your building has a mould problem is when you see an ongoing increase in worker sick days and employee health insurance claims. Mould can cause health issues ranging from mild to severe.
On the mild end of the spectrum, persistent low-grade health symptoms like those described in number four above may interfere with productivity.
As the mould issue becomes more serious, worker sick days and health insurance claims may increase as occasional health symptoms become chronic and more severe.
6. There is visible discoloration or staining on surfaces
Yet another way that mould announces its presence is through visible discoloration and staining on surfaces.
Seeing darker patches, small dark dots, white powdery “dust” or what appears to be staining may actually be mould spores growing and spreading.
Is It Mould or Something Else? 5 Common Workplace Indoor Air Contaminants
Mould problems tend to be headline-grabbing by their very nature. Everyone is afraid of mould, especially when it is the dreaded black mould.
But mould isn’t the only type of indoor air contaminant that can cause air quality and structural issues in the workplace.
The five most common types of indoor air quality contaminants in the workplace are these:
- Microbials: bacteria, fungi, mould, mildew
- Volatile organic compounds: off-gassing from office equipment, cleaning supplies, solvents, pesticides, adhesives and glues, disinfectants, etc.
- Particulates: dust and dust mites, tobacco, combustion byproducts
- Harmful/radioactive gases and vapours: ozone, radon, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide
- People: use of personal care products including fragrance, deodorant, aerosols
Before assuming your workspace has a mould problem, it is worth doing an indoor air quality test to accurately determine the true cause of the symptoms you are observing.
Improving Workplace Indoor Air Quality
Conducting an indoor air quality test will pinpoint the critical indoor air quality concerns and remediation needs to help you choose.
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